The Red Sox Struggle with Making Solid Contact

The Red Sox’ relative inability to score runs has been well-documented this season. After all, through the first 59 games, Boston scored just 221 runs, the 4th-worst total in the entire American League. Such offensive wastefulness has impacted negatively on the pitching staff, which, despite a stellar 2.41 collective ERA in June, still finds itself in the loss column all too frequently. Yet, aside from the bigger problem of scoring runs, the Red Sox just don’t seem to make solid contact, which is a recipe for disaster as the season progresses.

Purely from a fan’s perspective, this Red Sox team looks persistently off-balance at the Red Soxplate, with hitters constantly chopping the ball foul or popping it meekly back into the crowd. Each game feels similar; when the Sox desperately need somebody to produce a quality at-bat and square the ball up, it just never materializes. And frustration is now reaching boiling point.

 

The statistics support this notion of poor contact by Red Sox hitters. Thus far, the Sox have a .374 team slugging-percentage, which ranks 26th in the Majors and second-worst of all American League teams. Moreover, according to Fangraphs, Red Sox batters have hit the ball hard just 27.5% of the time, placing them 23rd in the big leagues, while Boston’s 20.7% soft-hit rate is the worst in all of baseball.

The correlation between these stats and actual team wins is fairly obscure, however. For instance, the Brewers have the highest percentage of hard-hit balls, but the second-worst record in the Majors; and the Royals have less hard-hit balls than the Red Sox, but have won six more games. But, in theory, a team needs to hit the ball hard if it has any hopes of scoring enough runs to compete. A team that hits continuously for power is obviously far more dangerous, and therefore more daunting for an opposing pitcher, than a team that routinely gets itself out with soft groundballs and pop flies. That’s just logic.

Of course, the great Red Sox teams of 2003, 2004 and 2007 were built with a slugging blueprint in mind. Theo Epstein regarded OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) as the single most important statistic when constructing a team and, to that effect, great hitters such as Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell and even J.D. Drew helped set the tone of a potent offense.

Now, those glorious days are long gone, both for the Red Sox and for baseball. We live in a pitching-dominant age, where the aces keep getting better and the strike zone keeps expanding. In the new baseball world, there is very little reward for the kind of offensive patience ingrained in the Red Sox philosophy. Now, working the count and seeing plenty of pitches is more likely to result in a strikeout, due to more pitcher-friendly umpiring. Likewise, previous Boston clubs would feast on weak bullpens, but that opportunity no longer exists. From the sixth inning on, relief pitchers tend to get better, not worse, meaning a change of focus is needed.

Red Sox

Ultimately, the Red Sox must adopt the new style of contemporary baseball, where it pays to be more aggressive and force the issue early in games. If this team has any October aspirations, it will have to cease making feeble contact and rolling over weakly on pitches, in favor of a rigorous, consistent and altogether more dangerous approach. Whether hitting coach Chili Davis is capable of implementing that change remains to be seen, but time is fast running out for these Red Sox, who must simply do better.

Is Boston Red Sox Second Baseman Dustin Pedroia Regressing?

Dustin pedroiaWinning the Rookie of the Year award in 2007 and American League MVP in 2008,  Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia set the bar high for himself early in his career. Known as one of the best second baseman in the league, if not the best, Pedroia is not having as spectacular of a season as he regularly does. On the year, Pedroia is hitting .277 while posting a .346 OBP with four homeruns and a pair of steals in seven attempts. These numbers do not jump off the page and if someone never saw him play, they might think that Pedroia was an above-average second baseman, but not a superstar.
nike zoom lebron 2
The question at hand is: Is Dustin Pedroia regressing? As of right now, the answer appears to be yes. The 30-year-old second baseman is still a valuable asset to the Boston Red Sox, but his best seasons may be in the past. Not to say that Pedroia is not playing well this year, because he is doing a great job, but he may no longer be the best second baseman in the league. On defense though, Pedroia has committed just one error making his fielding percentage an outstanding .997.

For Pedroia, there is no doubt that things will get better. Even if he never wins the MVP award ever again, he can still help Boston win games. If he can hit around .280 with a .350 OBP, which by the way is realistic, while playing great defense in the field, he would be the type of guy anyone would take on their team. He still has many years left in him and has the only long-term contract on the Boston Red Sox, giving them security at second base for years to come.
kobe nike zoom
Overall, Dustin Pedroia raises no concerns for Red Sox nation. He gets the job done day in and day out making him one of the most dependable guys on the team. Playing in every game so far this year except two, Pedroia brings some certainty to a team which is having a disappointing season to say the least.

Explaining The Boston Red Sox Struggles This Year

Red Sox logoThis year, the Boston Red Sox by no means are having a good season. Sitting at fourth place in the American League East with a 34-40 record, only the Tampa Bay Rays have a worse record at a dismal 29-46. Of course, Tampa Bay was predicted by many to win the division with Boston earning around 87 wins. As of right now, it seems highly unlikely that either team meets their expectations. Putting Tampa Bay aside, why is the home town team struggling so much this year? Let’s take a deeper look at why the Boston Red Sox continue to struggle winning games.

The first thought everyone has when a team is bad is to blame the manager. For Boston, this is definitely not the case. Manager John Farrell led the team to a World Series championship the previous season so he must be doing something right. All the other coaches on the team are the same as in 2013, so there definitely is not a coaching problem in Boston.

A second thought is the Moneyball strategy. General Billy Beane built A playoff contending team on about half what other teams spend by putting emphasis on pitching and OBP. The Boston Red Sox rank 12th out of 30 teams in OBP this year with a .321 mark. This is not terrible, but compare this to the outstanding .349 on base percentage they posted in their magical 2013 season. Regilars in the lineup this season with a sub-.300 OBP include: Jackie Bradley Jr., AJ Pierzynski, and Grady Sizemore who was recently released. In 2012, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. They led the league in OBP at .338. To put it this way: getting on base wins ball games.

If a team scores runs, they still need shutdown pitching. Obviously a few guys have put up underwhelming performances in the rotation this year (Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy). Of course, who could forget the struggles of Edward Mujica who has been seriously misused this year. The closer has been a back-end of the bullpen guy used in low leverage situations. He has the closer’s mentality which explains his struggles as he pitched well in a pair of save opportunities this year. The rotation definitely raises some questions, and has not been a strength for Boston this year.

The injury bug struck the Red Sox this year and bit them hard. There have been a total of seven trips to the Disabled List this year for the big league club. This hurt the club and obviously replacement players cannot put up the same numbers as a regular except Brock Holt.

Overall, this year has been rough for the Red Sox. It certainly could get better, but being 74 games into the year, they will need to start playing some serious catch up soon.